Last night Common Ground spokesperson Jon Aston took a deputation to Newmarket Council to talk about Doug Ford’s cuts to municipal and health services. 

Jon Aston and a growing number of like-minded people have also been taking the argument to Health Minister Christine Elliott who is the local MPP. But, like McCavity’s cat, she disappears whenever they turn up at her constituency office at 16635 Yonge Street (in the Nature’s Emporium Plaza) hoping to speak to her. The Common Ground people are there every Friday from 12 noon to 1pm.

Ford climbdown

I don’t know if Ford’s latest climbdown is going to change things (or Common Ground’s strategy) but there’s still plenty to protest about. In this morning’s Toronto Star Edward Keenan says it is good news that Ford is backing down a bit – but he says the war ain’t over. Just a brief respite.

Christine Elliott denies point blank that cuts are happening. She says the process is rather about rationalising health services to make them more efficient and effective.

When she appeared out of nowhere and won Newmarket-Aurora in last year’s provincial election she told voters the Progressive Conservatives would stop

“cuts to local nurses, doctors and hospitals”

"Without a single job cut"

Elliott’s Winter Update Newsletter tells us the Provincial Government will be saving $3.2 billion in program expenses by finding efficiencies

“without a single job cut, tax hike or reduction in front-line services” 

I suppose it all depends on how you define a “front-line service”. I’d say paramedics are front-line. And what about those who work on public health programs such as vaccination, school nutrition and infectious disease control? For Elliott cutting stem cell research funding is OK because it is not front-line. But what about the proposed changes to OHIP which could prevent dialysis patients from travelling outside the country. Is that front-line? 

Class sizes

The Government is also planning for a big increase in class sizes as the teaching workforce is scaled back. Going from an average class size of 22 up to 28 - is that front-line?

People in Newmarket-Aurora voted overwhelmingly for Ford Nation in the Provincial election – as did most ridings. 

Ford’s prospectus was sketchy to non-existent but the lack of detail didn’t seem to matter back then. Ford was for the little guy and not for the elites. He was going to cut taxes and cut out waste and put more money in people’s pockets (unless they were on the minimum wage). But as the cuts begin to bite there will be buyer’s remorse. Ford has no coherent plan. People didn’t sign up for this.

But the developers did.

Ford says there is no alternative to cuts. He says he inherited a bankrupt province. But that doesn’t stop him giving plum jobs on fat salaries to his army of cronies. Or setting up his own news operations unit funded by taxpayers.

Is this a front-line service?

Christine Elliott clearly thinks so.

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Update 30 May 2019: Is Ontario really open for health care business? (from the Toronto Star)

Almost a year ago in June 2018 I asked why Conrad Black was still in Canada.  

As yet I have no satisfactory answer.

He renounced his Canadian citizenship to become a British citizen so he could take a seat in the House of Lords. He was convicted of serious crimes and his recent pardon by Donald Trump does not expunge his criminality.

Or it wouldn’t here in Canada or in the UK where pardons are exercised under royal prerogative powers. A pardon is not the same as an acquittal. Only the Courts have the power to quash convictions. 

But that doesn’t stop Conrad Black shouting from the rooftops that he has been exonerated by Donald Trump's presidential pardon. Perhaps things are different in the United States.

Mockery of Justice

Eric H. Sussman, who prosecuted Conrad Black, told readers of the Financial Post that the presidential pardon is a mockery of justice:

“The pardon lays bare the fact that justice in Donald Trump’s America is unapologetically linked to who you know and how much money you have.”

Sussman says he was saddened but not surprised that Trump decided to pardon Black for his theft of millions of dollars from public shareholders and obstruction of justice.

“Nothing betrays the mockery that President Trump has made of our justice system more than the fact the Black’s co-defendants, Richard Boultbee and Peter Atkinson, Canadians who were convicted by the same jury, at the same trial, of the same fraud crimes as Black, did not receive any pardon consideration from President Trump. They remain convicted federal criminals with no pop singers or right-wing pundits to vouch for them.”

Black was released from prison in May 2012 and given a temporary residence permit by the then Minister of Immigration and Citizenship and now Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, to enter and remain in Canada for one year. 


In 2014 Jason Kenney told the Commons:

a foreign national who applies for permanent residence is ineligible if he has committed a serious crime.” 

He went on to talk about the process for reviewing these decisions.  But, astonishingly, because of “privacy considerations” we are kept in the dark about the immigration status of a foreign national convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice.

In my earlier blog I mentioned this must-see clip from the BBC’s “Have I Got News for You” filmed just after Black was released from prison in 2012. And here is another one where Conrad Black threatens to punch BBC Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman in the face.

Both video clips have aged well and have lost none of their zing.

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Update on 29 May 2019: Mueller says Trump was not exonerated by his investigation.

Tom Vegh is a flip flopper. 

He has all the qualifications required to get a top job in a Pancake House.

At the drop of a hat, he brazenly changes his position on important matters of policy, confidently expecting no-one to notice.

On 22 October 2018 Vegh won election as Newmarket’s Deputy Mayor and York Regional Councillor promising (a) to build a new library and seniors’ centre on the Hollingsworth Arena site and (b) to oppose the sale of the Hollingsworth Arena site to developers.

Yet last Tuesday (21 May 2019) he voted to support the so-called “Scenario 2” for the redevelopment of the Hollingsworth Arena site which would involve selling this Town-owned land to the developer, Briarwood, and leasing back at a market rent any land it might need for the community facility.

What about the new library?

In Vegh’s brisk one-and-a-half minute speech to councillors he complains:

“We haven’t really had any discussion regarding the size or purpose of that space. It is undefined. That’s a discussion for another time.” 

But whose fault is that? 

Since the election, Vegh has been totally silent on his plans for a new library and seniors’ centre. He made no mention of them at the meeting on 21 May. The most he is prepared to concede is that he has been working “diligently” on the proposal. There is no evidence that he has done any kind of thinking at all on how he would deliver on his election pledges. 

Promising the earth, delivering dust. 

The Minute of the decision on 21 May 2019

Vegh is the worst kind of politician imaginable - promising the earth in an election and delivering dust as soon as the votes are counted. This feeds cynicism and distrust in our politics. But for flip-flopper Vegh it’s water off a duck’s back.

On 21 May the Committee of the Whole decides to support in principle the redevelopment of land at Davis Drive and Patterson by the developer, Briarwood, described as “Scenario 1” in the staff report. (Agenda item 5.2. Page 69)

Councillors are not attracted to option 2 which involves the sale of the Hollingsworth Arena land to Briarwood and the construction of a six storey seniors’ residence and some kind of community facility whose ultimate use has never been specified.

After a presentation from senior planner Adrian Cammaert, councillors line up to argue the case for more parkland on the Hollingsworth Arena site citing the density of the adjacent condo development and the proximity of Southlake Hospital whose staff and visitors might, they suggest, enjoy spending time there, out in the open air.

More open space

Ward councillor, Jane Twinney, makes it clear from the outset she will not be supporting option 2 and calls for green space on the Hollingsworth site. She wants a “useable park” telling us we are going to need more green space in future. She is worried about the impact of increased traffic and parking. Victor Woodhouse, Christina Bisanz, Kelly Broome and Bob Kwapis echo her concerns. 

Grace Simon confesses she is “leaning to Scenario 2” and votes with Vegh.

The committee goes on to vote 7- 2 for option 1.

TOM TALKS mendaciously

In TOM TALKS Vegh predictably makes no mention of the debate about parkland. He simply reports that councillors were presented with two options, suggesting they were obliged to choose between them. 

It was, of course, always open to the Pancake to move an amendment to make the staff recommendation more to his liking. 

That is precisely what Jane Twinney did, successfully.

I don't know if Vegh is misinforming his readers deliberately or if he just can’t keep up with the rest of the class. But people who rely on TOM TALKS to find out what's happening on Newmarket Council are getting useless information. 

Fake news.

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During the debate on 21 May 2019 on the future development of the land at Davis and Patterson and the Town-owned land at Hollingsworth Arena, Tom Vegh says:

“So, just a couple of comments... We’ve already gone into the planning justification and we went through quite a process to get there. We are viewing this through the lens of that Secondary Plan. So we are not going to talk too much about that. I think Scenario 2 is a real opportunity and that’s what I support. It speaks to seniors’ housing and we do definitely have a tremendous need. It is likely to be condos. It also speaks to… includes a community space. We haven’t really had any discussion regarding the size or purpose of that space. It is undefined. That’s a discussion for another time.” 

“Davis Drive is really where we are looking to have our increased density and this location and the built-form we are talking about there – six storeys. It’s going to have a limited impact on the existing residents. To the north it is Huron Heights. It is not a highly developed area so it is not in the middle of an existing community. It is right up there close to Davis Drive. I will speak more of this project as it goes along but I am in favour of Scenario 2 now because I think it is needed and it is a real opportunity and it is consistent with our Secondary Plan.”

Note: Option 1 also involves selling a small strip of Town-owned land to the developer. Jane Twinney argued for the proceeds of this sale to be applied to the proposed new park at Hollingsworth.

Tom Vegh Facebook Hollingsworth
What about the new library?

Christine Elliott’s constituency office in Newmarket was again closed to visitors at 12 noon today as protesters gathered outside to draw attention to the scale and ferocity of the planned cuts to services. A sign on the door said the Office was closed until 12.30pm as there was a meeting going on inside. The place looked deserted.

A good-natured crowd of concerned citizens - under the banner of “Common Ground” - is determined to get their message across and draw attention to Ford’s savage cuts to health, education and other key services.

No answer

On the radio this morning Elliott tells Matt Galloway that cutbacks are required to cut the deficit. And when Galloway asks why the Government didn’t consult first before announcing cuts to services she doesn’t have a convincing answer. 

In fact, information from the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (dated 14 February 2019) tells us Ontario Healthcare Spending per capita is the lowest in Canada and its spending on debt interest is lower than most provinces.

I speak to a paramedic concerned about the forthcoming reorganisation of services. She doesn’t know what is in store – or whether she will still have a job in a year’s time.

Stepping up to the plate: Tony Van Trappist MP 

Newmarket’s citizen of the year (2017) Jackie Playter is again in the thick of it, waving a placard. She seems to be the unofficial campaign manager for former Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Trappist who is, of course, seeking the Liberal Party nomination for the Federal election in October.

I ask Jackie when we can expect to see Van Trappist demonstrating outside Elliott’s office, holding a placard aloft and chanting slogans just like the rest of us.

Try as I might, I just can’t see the old banker doing that kind of stuff. But I have no difficulty picturing him sitting comfortably in a nice restaurant dining out on our dollar as he did for many years while Mayor.

His campaign promises to be delicious. 

If I write to him seeking his views on the climate crisis, human rights, China, free trade, income inequality, Conrad Black and his immigration status or any one of a million other issues will he get back to me? I doubt it. That's not the way the old banker does his politics. For Van Trappist politics is about being "neighbourly". No more no less.

But will he still block me? 

Anyway… Jackie promises to ask him if he will be coming along next Friday between 12 noon and 1pm. I’ll be there to chat with him. I want to know – if and when he is elected as our new MP – if he will still be blocking me on Twitter. When he was Mayor he told people he had every right to block them from reading his Tweets. He sent complainers away with a flea in their ear. Instead of bothering him they could send out their own Tweets!

I am sure it is all going to be terrific fun.

The current MP, Kyle Peterson, got the Liberal nomination without a contest. No-one else threw their hat into the ring. It remains to be seen if anyone will have the temerity to challenge the great man.

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What should we make of Tom Vegh? 

Newmarket’s Deputy Mayor and York Regional Councillor is now a full-time politician with a salary to match. He is in a position where he could, theoretically, make a difference. But, so far, he has proved to be a complete dud.

During last year’s election Tom Vegh promised that the voters’ priorities would be his primary focus. His campaign literature highlighted one of those priorities - a new library and seniors’ centre at Hollingsworth Arena site.

Voters could be forgiven for believing he was deadly serious. His campaign flyers pointed to his “leadership roles”, someone with heft. We learn he was Vice Chair of the Newmarket Public Library and Chair of the Town/Library Efficiency Task Force.

Getting results

Last October Vegh told us he had: 

“a solid understanding of the issues and needs of our town and a proven track record of getting results”.

On 8 April 2019 the Town’s Committee of the Whole received a staff presentation and report on decommissioning the old Hollingsworth Hockey Arena where Vegh planned to have his new library and seniors’ centre. Instead of telling us about his exciting plan for a new library he called for a “brainstorming” workshop:

We can speak to our constituents. We can bring forward our ideas as part of the process… A bit of brainstorming from Council on what we would like to see for that site in addition to something coming back from the staff based on whatever they feel it should be based on.”  

Vegh has had years to ruminate about Newmarket Public Library but, typically, he was displaying none of the leadership he constantly boasts about. His solution is to have another workshop.

Last week I sat in on a Newmarket Library Board meeting where the Library Chief Executive Todd Kyle was updating Board members on the Town’s latest strategic priorities exercise and the implications for new or enhanced library facilities. 

Who are these people? Why are they here?

There were two of us (members of the public) sitting in on the meeting. I found the atmosphere slightly strained. It was as if Board members were asking themselves: Who are these people? Why are they here and what do they want? 

After the Board had dealt with some confidential matters we were ushered in to the tiny Board Room by Todd Kyle and took our seats. Unusually there was no greeting from the new Chair, Darcy McNeill. (The last time I sat in on a Board meeting was about six years ago when everyone stood up and, in turn, shook my hand.) 

Todd Kyle is now speaking to his report which, he says, may prompt a discussion. (See Agenda item 5.1)

He says there has been a lot of discussion and a willingness to move forward and there are lots of connections with the Town’s new strategic priorities (although the library doesn’t feature as one of them).

Library issue "parked"

Now we are on to Ian McDougall, the Town’s Commissioner of Community Services, who has been invited along. He talks in a weird kind of managerial-speak, mangling the language. He says he has been discussing things with Todd for a long time but he is now going to

“Circle back with Todd and map out a game plan. This is something that has been parked for a while.”

McDougall tells us that there were discussions back in February 2018 but, because the municipal elections were so close (October 2018) it was decided to refer any further consideration on the library issue to the newly elected Council’s strategic priorities exercise for the 2018-2022 term. 

He tells the Board that just because the library doesn’t feature as a priority that doesn’t mean it is not a priority. That would be to misinterpret what happened. In McDougall’s Orwellian-speak the Town’s decision to exclude the library from its list of priorities should not be taken as a sign that the Council is not interested in the library. No. No. No. He talks about the possibility of a joint needs assessment and getting things moving soon. He says elliptically:

“We find ourselves back at another starting line.”

What will the library of the future look like? 

Now Library Vice Chair, Jane Twinney, offers her thoughts. She makes a glancing reference to Hollingsworth – only to dismiss the idea of a library there. There is no need to rush things. We are told we need to go through a process so we land where we want to be. Now she is warbling on about the libraries of the future. What are they going to look like? There needs to be a combined effort with the council to decide where they are going. She says it will be a good… Jane is now searching for the word. Library Chair Darcy McNeill gingerly suggests the word “undertaking”.

Yes, says Jane. 

“It will be a good undertaking.”

Now Councillor Kelly Broome is talking about involving School Boards who are, we learn, doing a lot of work on “hubs”. She talks of partnering but doesn’t explain what that means in practice. I get the impression she believes the Council shouldn’t be doing anything on its own. 


The rest of the Board are acting as spectators, not venturing a view. But, wait,  someone directly in front of me is talking about “key milestones” and “decision points”. He wants to know at what point the school boards are brought in.

Which is the perfect cue for Jane Twinney to call for another workshop. More robust than the last.

Now Ian McDougall is intoning about a scoping exercise. He is going to 

“check Council’s appetite for a joint assessment”.

Oh dear!

The ultimate insult

In the course of these exchanges no-one mentions Regional Councillor Tom Vegh or his proposed new library. This must be the ultimate insult. A Library Board choosing not to discuss a proposal for a new Library from the Town’s Deputy Mayor. 

Apart from Jane Twinney’s blink-of-an-eye reference earlier, no-one mentions the upcoming meeting (Tuesday 21 May 2019) on Hollingsworth. Has Todd Kyle even had a conversation with Vegh about the possibility of a library at Hollingsworth? He won’t say. Has Vegh asked to speak to the Library Board about his plans? 

Is this the 

“leadership you can count on” 

that Vegh boasts about?

Vegh now spends a lot of time promoting himself on social media. His latest venture is “Tom Talks” which is a misnomer. Vegh is a dilettante afraid to engage in debate. I want to hear “Tom Explain” how he will deliver on his election promises. But that is expecting too much from him.

Vegh can, of course, prove me and all the other doubters wrong by arguing the case for a new library and seniors’ centre on the Hollingsworth Arena site at Tuesday’s meeting.

But he won’t. 

Vegh is not to be blamed.

It is just not in him.

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